A day in the life of a Lanark County Ambulance Service paramedic

Almonte General Hospital
By Lorraine Downey

 With alternating 12-hour day and night shifts,and some eight-hour day shifts, more than 90 paramedics work out of Almonte, Carleton Place, Perth, Smiths Falls and the Village of Lanark. All have a two-year paramedic diploma, provincial certification, and certification under the Regional Paramedic Program of Eastern Ontario.?Many medics have college or university degrees and many have had other careers.

 After checking the ambulance at the beginning of the shift, ensuring the vehicle, drugs, and equipment are ready to go, we tackle base duties—cleaning the base, checking stock, and deep cleaning each truck weekly.This involves cleaning every surface and piece of equipment inside the ambulance and verifying stock.

In the middle of our deep clean the base tones go off: Code 4 for an elderly female with an altered level of consciousness. Code 4 is the most serious call and we travel with lights and sirens to her residence. Along the way we are grateful to drivers who pull over to let us pass?or wait patiently at green lights as we stop, check to see if it is safe, and proceed through.

Our patient hasn't been seen in a few days and a neighbour checked on her. After giving her?oxygen, immobilizing her neck/spine, taking her vitals, attaching a?cardiac monitor, testing her blood sugar, and doing a stroke assessment, we suspect a stroke.

We?immobilize her on a backboard and, with her friend holding doors and equipment, we remove the patient from her house. Returning to the hospital with lights and sirens, I am constantly monitoring the patient, and, most importantly,reassuring her during the short trip to the hospital. The doctor agrees with our assessment and she is admitted. 

Luckily her neighbour had a key but often we cannot gain access and we wait for a keyholder to arrive or, in a worst-case scenario, for police or firefighters to break down a door.

Paramedics are here for everyone, from the first-time parents who panic at the first contraction, to the teen who just took a bottle of pills but wants to live, to the accident victim with serious injuries, to the elderly person with a broken hip. 

As the population ages, paramedicine will evolve to meet the needs of the community. The paramedics of the Lanark County Ambulance Service will continue to bring a sense of order, compassion and professionalism to our patients and their families when they need it most.

Lorraine Downey is a paramedic with the Almonte Base of the Lanark County Ambulance Service